NU epidemiologist doesn’t believe Election Day processes will increase COVID-19 transmission

BOSTON — A surge in COVID-19 cases across the country is leading to health and logistical concerns ahead of Election Day. Despite some of those worries nationwide, Massachusetts leaders remain confident that in-person voting in the commonwealth will not lead to an uptick in cases.

Samuel Scarpino, assistant professor at Northeastern University’s Network Science Institute, told Boston 25 News it’s “unlikely” that election processes will result in an increase in transmission. Scarpino points to high compliance rates involving mask-wearing during early voting in the state.

“As long as you have high compliance with mask-wearing and physical distancing, it should be safe to vote,” Scarpino said. “We understand it’s going to be enforced and facilitated at the polling locations.”

Scarpino believes it’s the weeks that follow, through the holiday season, that will potentially have an impact on positivity rates.

>>>MORE: Walsh asks all Boston residents, employees to get tested for COVID-19

“If we gather with individuals from outside our household in large numbers, it is likely to cause an increase in case. It is likely to lead to tragic and unnecessary deaths,” Scarpino said.

The City of Boston’s positivity test rate has doubled in the last month and a half.

Boston is one of 121 of the state’s cities and towns in the high-risk “red zone.” That’s more than one-third of the 351 municipalities in Massachusetts.

>>>MORE: 121 communities in MA now considered ‘high-risk’ zones for COVID-19

“I think we want to avoid another lockdown, another shutdown. We’ve seen this happen in the United Kingdom and France,” Scarpino said. “We are still desperately in need of better information from the state about where the cases are coming from.”

New data released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health last week showed that household transmission accounted for more than 87% of new and ongoing coronavirus clusters in the state between late September and late October.

The data released by the state still isn’t explaining the source of many new coronavirus cases. Scarpino said that’s what is making it tough to pin down what’s driving the increase.

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